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Masks to Go Optional At Mountain View?

By Ted Brewster

Unless the state Supreme Court intervenes, Governor Tom Wolf's face mask mandate for schools across the state will expire on December 4, and the Mountain View School Board voted at its meeting on November 22nd to take advantage of that unlikely intervention by allowing "the wearing of masks to be optional and at the discretion of each individual" as of that date set by the Commonwealth Court. There was light applause when the motion passed over a single nay vote by Board member Dave Schulte.

Before they got that far, however, the Board recognized Ellen Holdredge, "Ed Support Coordinator" for the Susquehanna County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees (PASR) who presented a "teacher enrichment grant" in the form of a $250 to Elementary School Counselor Jessica Mead. Ms. Mead's "mindfulness" program tries to help Pre-K to 5th-grade students to "cope with mental health concerns," "identify their emotions" ("mad, sad, glad" in the words of Elementary School Principal Chris Lake), and deal with anxiety.

Early next year the Mountain View School Board will begin wrestling with a new budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year. The Board authorized the business office to develop a timeline and related advertising for the budget process. The first step will be to determine if the district can stay within whatever "index" is published by the state Department of Education for property tax increases. If they decide to do that, then the Board will have until the end of June to adopt a budget on their own, without extra input from taxpayers.

In the meantime, the Treasurer's report, presented by Board member Sondra Stine, shows a balance in the general fund at the end of October of about $7.6 million, including federal and state subsidies of just over $1 million as against expenditures for the month of about $1.5 million. The food service program started the month with about $40,000, accepted a "loan" of another $40,000 from the general fund, received federal and state subsidies totaling well over $63,000, as against just under $42,000 in spending, to end the month with just over $105,000 in the bank.

In other business, the Board

  • Approved an agreement with Susquehanna County and RBA Professional Data Systems for the implementation of new tax collection software, costing the district about $600 per year;

  • Heard the first reading, verbatim, out loud, of a policy on "Tobacco and Vaping Products" that goes into considerable detail about what is prohibited along those lines, which is mostly everything;

  • Approved attendance by IT Technician Matthew Georgetti at the Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference at Hershey at a cost of $827.60;

  • Approved "homebound instruction" for two unnamed students covering periods that are mostly already expired; Superintendent Michael Elia explained that sometimes it is not possible to know in advance when such arrangements might be necessary;

  • Approved 3 field trip requests with costs totaling $1,110.

The Board also approved a pair of "Memoranda of Understanding" with unnamed entities for "Emergency Sheltering and Mass Care Facilities." Dr. Elia said that these are off-site locations that would receive students (and presumably staff) in the event of a serious emergency event. He said that naming the facilities would tend to compromise the security of the arrangement, but that, in the event that the arrangement had to be activated, parents would be duly notified.

In administrative reports, Director of Curriculum & Instruction, Federal Programs, Safety & Security and whatnot, Douglas Womelsdorf told the Board that the district would be receiving another $133,392 in funds from the Elementary & Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) program. This money, sometimes referred to as ESSER 4, to distinguish it from 3 earlier distributions through the state from the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP), represents a 7 percent set-aside specifically targeted at "learning loss," summer enrichment, and "comprehensive after school programs." There are additional, more detailed requirements for the use of the funds within those categories.

Mr. Womelsdorf also said that "home letters" will be going out soon describing scores on the most recent PSSA tests (Pennsylvania System of School Assessments, the state's standardized testing regimen). Slides from Mr. Womelsdorf's presentation 2 weeks before are available on the district's website, labeled "MVSD School Board Presentation on November 8, 2021." They give a fairly detailed summary of Mr. Womelsdorf's analysis of the data for the schools overall.

At the very end of the meeting, the Board heard questions and comments from several interested observers, not the least of which were a contingent of parents from Uniondale. One woman questioned the effectiveness of masks, calling them "hazardous" to student health, particularly emotional health. She was thanked for her input.

Another parent asked if the district would be hosting a vaccine clinic, as some other school districts have done. Dr. Elia said that the idea is under consideration.

The Mountain View School Board – like most other school boards across the state – will reorganize itself at its next meeting, on Monday, December 6, 2021, beginning on or about 7:00pm in the Zick boardroom in the Elementary School building.

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Oakland Ceremony Lights Up The Holidays

By Rhonda Parfitt

The Oakland Borough Community Development Committee's (OBCDC) first annual Tree Lighting Ceremony occurred outside the Oakland Borough building on November 27th at 6:00pm. Borough Council Vice President Valerie Senese welcomed guests and acknowledged all those involved in planning the event.

Committee Chairwoman Heather Krayeski gave a Christmas Tree blessing and a blessing to all the families present. Guests excitedly counted down from 10 in unison and the decorated tree was lit, bringing in the Holiday season. Guests then entered the brightly decorated Borough building where there were refreshments served. A children's craft, a "pin-the-heart-on-the-Grinch" game, photos with the Grinch and a movie for entertainment provided the entertainment of the evening.

About a dozen area families were present and the committee considers the first-time event to be a success. Interested individuals can visit the committee's Facebook page titled "Oakland Borough Community" to learn more about what the committee has up its sleeve in the coming months.

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SCDA Supports Local

By Valerie Senese

The Susquehanna Community Development Association is a local non-profit based in Susquehanna Depot, PA. The non-profit has been in existence for over 20 years, working to achieve growth for the region via community and economic development. Their latest efforts include the celebration of Small Business Saturday. This year, the special day of commemorating gratitude and support for local businesses fell on November 27th. With business development continuing to take root in the community, the SCDA pin pointed a new way to enhance local entrepreneurship. "Make a Big Impact, Shop Small" is a program designed to engage shoppers locally while rewarding them with a chance to win various prizes.

Punch ticket style cards can be obtained for $5 in person at participating stores, and they were made available to the public on Saturday in front of Schneider's Market on Erie Boulevard. SCDA Board member Kathy Matis was stationed outdoors promoting the new program with tickets in hand. According to Ms. Matis, "By initiating our first Small Business Saturday, SCDA is striving to help our small businesses succeed, welcoming new businesses that come to Susquehanna, and encouraging our residents to see what our friends and neighbors have to offer in their businesses." The goal of the $5 ticket is to have shoppers spend at least $10 in each of the eight local enterprises listed on the ticket and have them returned to the SCDA by December 17th. Once returned, the shopper will be eligible for raffle style prizes. For more information go to the Susquehanna Community Development Association Facebook Page.

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